Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

C.R.E.A.M. (Capoeira Rules Everything Around ME =0))

February 23rd, 2010 · 1 Comment

C.R.E.A.M. (Capoeira Rules Everything Around ME =0))

If you know me then you understand just how important dance is to me. My mom tells me that I used to dance even when she changed my diapers. As she described, “you used to move your but from left to right, and your legs had this rhythmic flow to them, that I just knew you were going to love dance.” As the years passed I knew music videos artists and dances to numerous songs just at the age of three, I even had my little ambiance which acted as the settings of my performances. My costume a big red sweater that wore on my head, a huge silver “boom box” complete with cassette tape and huge antenna. In this space I was in my element and grew to become a very passionate dancer. Throughout my future years I trained in West African dance, contemporary, jazz, and my strength hip hop and became so passionate about this art form that I had it written on me. Some people know the saying, “cash rules everything around me” as it was said in a famous hip hop song in the 90’s. While home in the summer I heard that saying altered in a slightly different phrase, “Dance rules everything around me” I fell in love with it and since it was so fitting, I decided to get it tattooed on my back. However after I arrived in the UK the significance of dance diminished in this chapter of my life because I didn’t have an outlet in which to express myself.

Once I arrived at UEA Capoeira become one of the most influential aspects of my time here. But it was not until this past weekend when I truly realized that my passion for dance became rivaled by Capoeira.

On the morning of Saturday February 20, 2010 a Brazilian Capoeira Master visited the Norwich Capoeira group and his visit changed my world forever. It was the first sunny day of the entire week. The previous night I had refrained from going out because of the anxiety and nervous feelings I had for the following day. I woke up refreshed; the sun shined brightly the window of my Village flat, the sky blue with beautiful dashes of white clouds. It was the warmest it had been all week, so I wore a simple coat jeans, and my basketball shorts under, so I could be ready to begin the workshop. As I walked I put my favorite playlist on my ipod and I walked to the recreation center just 30 minutes away down Earlham road from the village, millions of emotions raced through my mind. What did he look like, how fast was he going to go, how was his methods of teaching, what was his focus in Capoeira , how many years had he been training, and most important was he going to kick my ass? Needless to say no matter how much I pondered the questions I would not be able mentally prepare myself for what I was about to experience.

I walked into the recreation center, my palms sweaty, and my stomach filled with “butterflies” and as the rest of the Norwich Capoeira and I anticipated the arrival of the Capoeira master the thought flowing through everyone’s mind was, how intense was this going to be? He arrived 30 minutes behind schedule but wasted no time. There was a brief introduction and immediately afterwards class begun. Master Biscuim started the class with each of us picking up two sticks, and began conditioning exercises with a timely speed increase after each run through. My heart began to race as I dramatically wondered if I would make it out of this workshop alive. The stamina needed to make it through the exercises was illustrated by few, and the rest of the class struggled in an attempt to keep up with even our original Capoeira Professors showing some difficulty.

Grupo Capoeira Brasil – Mestre Biscuim Demo for BBC Essex Feb 2010

As the class continued the more my interest grew. In the second phase of the class the Master demonstrated a sequence of moves that we were expected to follow. Normally in class I don’t have difficulty keeping with the choreographed set of movements, but the speed that was required was indescribable, and what was worse was that before I could even get through one set of the movements Mestre Biscuim was already beginning his 3rd set. Although I could not even pretend to keep up, the joy I felt was insurmountable, I had not been able to recall a time more physically demanding then that moment, and I was loving every minute of it.

Soon we broke off into pairs practicing certain sequences of kicks and tricks, and as the pace quickened I felt my adrenaline began to rise. Each motion took more energy than the one that preceded it and yet, I still found more to draw from until it was time to switch partners.  I found myself surpassing limits with each motion and it was not because of something I felt I needed to prove, but instead there was a passion that made those limits disappear. Then we formed a Rhoda and the whole class participated and as I saw kicks, shamada’s, Gingas, and numerous kicks fly at indescribable speeds, I discovered just how deep I had fallen in love with Capoeira, so much so that it rivaled my passion for dance. As the workshop went on the joy felt grew, and as my friends would say, “I was cheesing” the entire workshop, even when I was walking home I felt a certain type of joy that I hadn’t felt since performing at dance competitions in High School. Out of this entire time of being abroad, the capoeira workshop has been one of the most memorable experiences that I will take with me and look on with joy.

C.R.E.A.M…….at least in the UK


Tags: Anthony

Hidden Culture.

February 23rd, 2010 · No Comments

As the weeks progressed more and more movements became introduced to me, some I tackled with ease and others not so much. The interesting thing I began to learn about Capoeira was how intricate it was as an art form. Although many of the movements were big and about opening and closing your body to your opponent as a means of attack and defense the variety of movements that could be used in either situation were endless. Depending on the skill level of you and your opponent determines the speed and interaction of the game, but Ash, the Wednesday instructor expressed was that regardless of the skill level, whether it’s someone’s first day or 30th year, anyone can play capoeira.

The next few classes became more and more rigorous but one thing that I definitely appreciated was the fact that after two weeks I was no longer waking up sore. After the first day of class I woke up with an indescribable pain, my bones, muscles, head, feet, and body hurt to no end. It felt as if a sumo wrestler played a practical joke on me and Jumped 20 feet in the air and landed on me. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to tolerate the pain, anymore, but Ash assured me that after the fourth class I would be used to it. We learned a couple new kicks, and counters but what interested me the most was the history of Capoeira, and when it was created. At the last 15 minutes of class the beginners and the more advanced come in and form a Rhoda and either learn songs or discuss the history of Capoeira before we work our last Rhoda.

Rod, the Friday Capoeira instructor, described to us the early teachings of Capoeira and some of the early beliefs of how it was played. In one such class he stated that Capoeira Angola the traditional of Capoeira was believed to be played underneath the slave owners houses. Like America Brazil was colonized by European powers, and brought enslaved Africans over to help cultivate their new founded territory. The slaves of Brazil were believed to be placed underneath the slave owners house and practiced Capoeira in these confined spaces. This is why the theory exist that Capoeira Angola is so  close to the ground because in order to be able to play the slaves had to use the little confined spaces available to them. A second part of the hidden culture of Capoeira that Rod revealed was the purpose of the Rhoda. Besides being the cultural space of Capoeira its significance holds more meaning than just the cultural space it represents. Because Capoeira was outlawed in Brazil Capoeiristas/slaves needed to be secretive about their games. The Rhoda allowed the identities of those playing to be concealed, and although the games would get broken up the individuals playing could not get arrested because the Rhoda protected their identity. The Rhoda also made it possible for the audience to always be watching. Because the Rhoda is a circle if the police were to come and try to break up the game, someone in the Rhoda was able to keep watch from all sides and would be able to signal when the police were coming. Although secretive Capoeira has survived over the last three hundred plus years because the culture and its practices have been protected by its people, and its cultural significance is still respected and practice today, even in Norwich………Who Knew?

Tags: Anthony

When the Music and the body become one

February 23rd, 2010 · 1 Comment

“Head down, as I watch my feet take turns hitting the ground”……. The Instructor tells me to look in his eyes, never at the ground, because you never know when your opponent can strike. As a Capoeirista you owe it to yourself, the instructor, your opponent, the Bid-im-bow, and the Rhoda to focus and properly carryout the culture of Capoeira.  My first day of Capoeira was about 5 months ago, but I still remember that class as if it was yesterday. I walked into class really not knowing what to expect, other than a few sightings and Venice beach and playing the game Tekken, with Eddy Guardo being one of my favorite characters, I really wasn’t sure what Capoeira was.

The only reason why I entered the class in the first place was because a few days before, I was informed about the signing up for Societies in the LCR. Apart from ACS (Afro-Caribbean Society) nothing really caught my interest, until a student jumped out in front of my face and said, “Ever try Capoeira.” Instantly my mind took me back about a good 12 years when I was at the beach with my family. I was running around in the sand, burying one of my Spiderman toys when I heard faint drumming in the distance. Normally I equated the sounds of drums to West African dance because I had been trained in it since the age of four. But as my feet coerced themselves into the sand the noise became louder. Once I arrived at the sound I discovered a circle of people looking like they were “break dance fighting.” I immediately became intrigued, flares, kicks, and a rhythmic swaying contributed to this foreign sight where the music and the body served as the inspiration for the movement. Once I returned back to my reality I put my name on the list immediately.

Walking into that class that day took me all the way back to when I was 8 because I was going in with the exact same curiosity. We began class by running around and getting our cardio up. We warmed up each of our muscles carefully and attentively as to not betray our bodies because in the latter part of class we would get more physical. As we went through the warm up I realized that Capoeira was going to feel very familiar to me, because as a dancer I was used to moving my body with the sound of music, I would just need to learn this new style and adapt to the movement and music as best as I could.

The instructor gave us the basic movement a swaying motion back and forth switching you weight from right to left, this movement is called “GInga.”  The Ginga is the most fundamental part of Capoeira because it provides you the basic fundamental movement that you need in order to play Capoeira. The second major purpose of the Ginga is that it determines your own style, and no one persons Ginga is the same as another’s and once you have acquired your own Ginga you can begin to further explore the culture of Capoeira. Of all the classes I have taken the first one was my favorite because it seemed like second nature, and the instructor really challenged me to push through and not be inhibited by those more advanced than myself.

In the last portion of class the instructor gathered us all up in order to form a “Rhoda” (the circle in which Capoeira takes place. He named the various instruments used in the “Rhoda” some familiar some foreign and discussed the importance of the songs and the role they play in Copoiera. Once we learned a few hymns two people bent down, faced each other in the Rhoda, cart wheeled  in and my curiosity began to take me on my journey. I was infatuated with the whole culture of Capoeira, and as the music and body became one, a new vocabulary of movement was opened up to me that I had not yet known existed.

Tags: Anthony · Uncategorized